Thinking Tools sessions with children, parents and teachers

Written by Cas Olivier

The curriculum, textbooks and explanations are linear in nature, i.e. from A to Z. The brain’s thinking abilities on the other hand, are not designed to embrace linear processes. Thinking Tools take advantage of the ‘hyperlinked’ way in the brain works. In this way, the definition of learning changes from memorizing to thinking. Whatever is generated by means of thinking is cemented in the long-term memory. Thinking Tools is not a study method; it is an approach to thinking.

The World Economic Forum has just released its 2017 Human Capital Report with the subtitle “Preparing People for the Future of Work”. The report states that “many of today’s education systems are disconnected from the skills needed to function in today’s labour markets”. It underlines how schools tend to focus primarily on developing children’s cognitive skills rather than fostering skills like problem solving, creativity or collaboration. According to the Report, the following are the top skills needed in 2020:

  1. Complex problem solving
  2. Critical Thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People management
  5. Coordinating with others
  6. Emotional intelligence.
  7. Judgement and decision making
  1. Service orientation
  2. Cognitive flexibility

This is spot-on with what is achieved with Thinking Tools.

Learners, parents and teachers are empowered with 41 Thinking Tools during 6 three-hour sessions. The uniqueness of the approach is that not one Thinking Tool is used in isolation. In fact, it is practically impossible to only one Thinking Tool at a time. Take for example the Thinking Tool ‘analyze’. When learners are expected to analyze, ‘analyze’ as a standalone, does not inform them if they must analyze a process or a set of facts, as both may be contained in the work to be analyzed. This results in a plethora of answers of which all must be marked correct. Likewise, will deep thinking and analyze not give the same result as deep thinking and synthesizing ideas?

Sessions can be contact sessions or by Zoom conferencing or a blend between the two. Teachers obtain 20 CPTD points. The sessions are aimed to, amongst other, provide learners the opportunity to use and master subject vocabulary which subsequently enable them to clearly express themselves during tests and exams. The Tools enable them to ask enquiring questions. The Tools also enable them to analyze exam questions, eliminating wrong interpretation of questions leading to better achievements, developing self-confidence and a positive attitude towards learning and classroom discipline.

Using Thinking Tools result in higher marks in tests and exams. A grade 12 class’s geography average increased with 24%, from 31% to 55%. A B Com (Rec) student at the NWU who failed two years lately achieved 100% in Auditing and 88% in Taxation. A grade 4 learner’s math’s increased from 24% to 40%. The list is longer and growing day by day.

Over and above the positive feedback from teachers, parents too are pleased with their children’s achievement. This is the comment of a second year UNISA dyslectic student teacher who is also an assistant teacher at a school: “I was told today that the classes I offer using thinking tools work. The children complained that they only want to get class from me.

So, I think the tools work very well and make the children feel more positive about the lesson.” (Edited)

This is part of the feedback of a final year student at the University of Pretoria focusing on elements of Great Teaching: “The course also changed my mind-set regarding a teacher’s role as a leader in the classroom as I now believe that a teacher should rather be a follower. In other words, a teacher needs to start with a learner’s inner speech and follow their ‘thinking’ in order to assess whether they are learning or not. This way no learner gets left behind as the teacher starts the lesson from the learners’ level of knowledge and builds on that by guiding learners to discover and achieve lesson outcomes themselves.”

This places education in Thinking Tools when it happens in tandem with principles of Great Teaching, according to the 2017 Human Capital Report, in the ‘world class’ category.